Australia Coffs Harbour students protest over teachers' 'racist' remarks

13:26  25 september  2020
13:26  25 september  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Sky News host Chris Kenny says the Coffs Harbour City Council "ought to be ashamed of themselves, ought to apologise and promise that this obscenity will

Official Facebook Page of Coffs Harbour High School. This information may change at any time subject to Government decisions. Parents should seek medical advice over the phone and follow all recommendations from their medical professional.

a person posing for the camera: Wiradjuri student, Hayley Piper, 15, says she was shocked when a teacher at Orara High School made offensive comments to her. (ABC Coffs Coast: Claudia Jambor) © Provided by ABC NEWS Wiradjuri student, Hayley Piper, 15, says she was shocked when a teacher at Orara High School made offensive comments to her. (ABC Coffs Coast: Claudia Jambor)

Students at a high school on the NSW Mid North Coast want staff to take a lesson in cultural awareness after a teacher allegedly told a group of Indigenous female students that he supported the forcible removal of Aboriginal children from their families.

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Scores of students from Orara High School in Coffs Harbour held a protest on Friday in response to allegations involving teachers insulting a number of students from culturally diverse backgrounds.

The demonstration was sparked after 15-year-old Wiradjuri student Hayley Piper and a group of friends were confronted on Wednesday by a male teacher, who they allege made obscene comments about the Stolen Generations and Aboriginal people.

"He said he was glad our race was stolen; it made us really angry," Hayley said.

"I never thought that a racist comment like that would ever come from a teacher."

The NSW Department of Education said it was aware that a casual teacher had spoken to some Aboriginal students in terms they and other students had alleged were racist.

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Orara High School principal Malcolm McFarlene said the school had taken the incident "very seriously" and "a very frank conversation" was had with teacher involved, before a meeting was held with all staff.

"There was a link [made] between students' behaviour and cultural background, which is something that we won't tolerate in our school," Mr McFarlene said.

Mr McFarlene said the teacher had offered an apology to the students and had acknowledged that his comments may have hurt them.

However, he said the exact wording of the remarks was still being investigated.

As Coffs Harbour is a Federal Government-designated refugee resettlement city, the school's students speak more than 35 different languages between them.

Mr McFarlene said his school prided itself on its cultural diversity.

"We have a wonderfully diverse school community. We always need to have high expectations of each other in relation to our behaviour and better understanding of each other," he said.

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“We are often given obstacles where we are put into classes filled with only white teachers and white students ,” said Chassidy Titley, left, who along with Lauryn Silver, center, and Isabella Ali was protesting at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School.Credit James Estrin/The New York Times.

The student -organized protest spread largely through social media, which meant some students might not have had access to information detailing the event. English as a second language teachers at Charlestown High School knew that their students in particular might not be as well informed as their

'We are here for education'

Keith Dungay, a Dunghutti student who attends the school, said he had decided to speak out to encourage change in the attitudes of some teachers, who he felt were failing Aboriginal students.

"We are here for an education — not to be degraded by teachers. Education is the key for my people and your people," Keith said.

"We need to make a stand, and have a voice so that we can see change."

Mr McFarlene supported the students' move to protest and speak up about the incident involving the casual teacher.

"I'm very proud of our students; they were rightly anxious and upset about things that they believed had been said by a staff member," Mr McFarlene said.

Carer happy with school's response

Hayley's guardian and aunt, Angel Piper, met with the school's deputy principal, who had informed her that staff were addressing Hayley's concerns.

"It seemed the school was on top of it before I got there. They were not happy or impressed at all and they were doing everything they could to look into it," Ms Piper said.

The swift action came as some relief for Ms Piper, who had also endured similar discrimination.

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Find help with professional Tutors in Coffs Harbour . Many students use a math tutor or a science tutor to help them grasp complex concepts, complete homework and prepare for assignments and exams.

"At least, [the school] is trying to get on top of it immediately, unlike when I was in school when they sort of just brushed it under the rug," Ms Piper said.

Cultural awareness training

Mr McFarlene and other staff met with about 100 students on Thursday to discuss the incident.

He assured students that all teachers would be undertaking planned cultural awareness training.

The ABC has been informed by carers and students of at least three similar incidents at the school in recent months, including when a female teacher told a Sudanese student to "go back to where they came from" during a class.

The Department of Education said the alleged incidents were investigated and no conclusive evidence was found, "but both matters were managed within the school to the satisfaction of the parties".

Mr McFarlene said the teacher involved in the latest incident would not be returning to the school unless the Education Department's employee performance and conduct unit cleared him.

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